I have a chicken run which isn’t very well drained. I’ve heard that bark chippings drain well but aren’t a good idea for poultry. I don’t understand why – can you enlighten me please?Sarah Blackdown, via email
There are two types of mulch produced as a by-product from forestry. One is chopped bark and the other is wood chips. Sometimes the two are mixed together if many small branches and twigs are mulched. As a substrate for an aviary or pen, it’s marvellous as it’s free-draining, but the dreaded aspergillus fungus just loves bark on which to grow. This is the fungus which, if it gets into poultry lungs and airsacs, slowly kills them. It’s dangerous as the spores can hide inside the airsacs where antibiotics have little effect. The birds can often seem fine right up until the end, but sometimes they do look ill first. If diagnosed early, fogging the affected bird with the disinfectant F10 does work, but the timing is critical. If, however, only wood chips are used, these are too hard for the aspergillus fungus to colonize, so if you have a source of wood chips with no bark, you can indeed use this as a substrate and get your pen better drained.
Victoria Roberts BVSC MRCVSEmail the Vet's forum at: email@example.com
Disclaimer: The information and advice in this column is given in good faith. However, as the animals in question have not been examined by the author, no liability in respect of diagnosis or application of any treatments is accepted either by the author or by Country Smallholding